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Now a senior captain, Daniel Hasler can’t wait to experience his first Ivy League Championship weekend in Harvard’s Blodgett Pool. Regardless of the finish, it’s guaranteed to be a better experience for him than the last time Ivies were held in Boston.
Even if that happened to be the most memorable finish in the history of the meet, and it went in Princeton's favor.
Hasler dealt with a serious illness his freshman year that left him home while his team tried to win a third straight league title. He followed along as Harvard built a wave of momentum heading into the final session and looked primed to end Princeton’s championship run.
He sent head coach Rob Orr a text, saying he thought they could get it done. Maybe he believed it. Maybe he just hoped it.
Stunningly, by only 5.5 points, the Tigers made Hasler look like a prophet.
Princeton will try to make it six straight Ivy League titles when it begins the 2014 Ivy Championships Thursday at 11 am at Blodgett Pool. All six sessions (11 am prelims; 6 pm finals) will be streamed live on the Ivy League Digital Network.
Led by a brilliant performance by the Class of 2016, Princeton won the 2013 title by 68 points over the Crimson, who will serve as this year’s meet host. While Harvard and Princeton continue to lead the pack, the rest of the league continues to get faster and several teams will challenge for individual titles.
While a 5.5-point margin may be impossible to top, this year’s meet could be one of the closest in recent memory. Here is a look at how Princeton stacks up in the various events.
Junior Harrison Wagner is the reigning Ivy League champion in the 50 free, and both he and En-Wei Hu-Van Wright bring Top-5 times (20.24) into the weekend. Hu-Van Wright also has a Top-10 time in the 100, though Princeton’s best time in that event belongs to sophomore Jemery Wong (43.98, fourth-best in the league).
Wong is also a strong candidate in the 200 free, where he was a Top-10 finisher at Ivies last year. Junior Conner Jager also has a Top 10 time entering the weekend, and he could be a contender for his first Ivy League championship final in that event.
A pair of freshmen, Sam Smiddy and Lance Rutkin, will join sophomore Zach Ridout and senior Paul Nolle to compete in the distance events. Ridout placed third in the mile last year, while Nolle took sixth in the 1,000. Nolle won all three events as a sophomore and brings terrific experience into those events, while Smiddy and Rutkin each have at least one Top-10 time in a distance event entering the weekend.
Princeton has the reigning Ivy League champion in both the 100 and 200 back events, and both will be looking to lead a strong Princeton contingent in the two events.
Junior Michael Strand won the 100 last year, and he is a two-year finalist in the 200 as well. His Big Al time of 46.68 remains the league’s best this season, while both Hu-Van Wright and junior Connor Maher have Top-5 times in the event.
Maher’s time in the 200 back (1:43.98) is currently third-best in the league, but he won the 2013 Ivy title in 1:43.76 last season and will look to defend that title.
Sophomore Byron Sanborn was one of the nation’s best freshmen in the 100 and 200 breast last year, and he gained the ultimate experience by competing at NCAAs after a strong performance at Ivies. Princeton will be looking for Sanborn to score big points, though he should face one of the league’s best swimmers in Dartmouth senior Nejc Zupan.
Sophomore Teo D’Alessandro was a top scorer in the breast events last year, and senior tri-captain Daniel Hasler placed in the top six in both ‘A’ finals last year as well. Sophomore Marco Bove also has a Top-10 time in the 100 entering the weekend.
Princeton may not have a top contender in the fly, but it has a handful of swimmers who could score in the ‘A’ finals. Strand won the ‘B’ final in the 100 last year, but his time of 47.63 is currently third-fastest in the league. Junior Oliver Bennett was an ‘A’ finalist in the 200 last year, and he has a Top-5 time this year. Sophomore Marco Bove is just behind Bennett in the 200, but he also placed in the Top 5 of the 200 last year.
Sophomore Teo D'Alessandro holds both the Princeton record and the Ivy League’s top time in both the 200 (1:45.08) and the 400 (3:47.22) this season. He will be challenged by a plethora of strong underclassmen throughout the league, including Hu-Van Wright, who has the Ivy’s third-best time in the 200 (1:47.84).
Hasler is always a contender in the 400 IM, where he has finished third in back-to-back years. Sanborn and Bove were ‘A’ finalists in the 200 last year, and both have Top-8 times heading into this weekend’s meet.
Stevie Vines ’13 consistently provided big points for the Tigers off the boards, and now Princeton will look for similar production this weekend from the likes of senior Mark O’Connell, junior Michael Manhard and freshman Nathan Makarewicz. O’Connell, another senior captain, reached both finals in 2012 and 2013, while Manhard was an ‘A’ finalist in the 3-meter event last year.